Commanding Abstraction: Female Artists from an Important North American Collection

A cross the New York Contemporary Sales this November, Sotheby’s is excited to offer a selection of works from an important private collection by leading female artists at the vanguard of abstract contemporary sculpture and painting. Celebrated for their contemporary modes of processed-based paintings, the likes of Charline von Heyl, Laura Owens, Amy Sillman, and Jacqueline Humphries have radically adapted the legacy of abstract painting into their own respective vernaculars. As they emerged from different realms of the art world in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, these painters are critically acclaimed today for challenging the masculine connotations of the Abstract Expressionist movement with boldly distinct interpretations of the painterly gesture. As Amy Silman once recalled, “AbEx painting was not the expectation for a female art student in the 1970s… There is a certain ‘transgressive’ goal in trying to exploit a collapsed and forbidden terrain in order to open it up, de-mythologize, exploit and change it for new people’s use. At that time, it was basically like trespassing.” (Amy Silman quoted in: “Parts & Labour: Amy Sillman in Conversation with Matt Saunders,” Frieze, September 2010 (online)) Today, best seen in von Heyl’s Crash Course [Atalante] in The Now Evening Sale and Humphries’s Candyman in the Contemporary Day Sale, these painters have boldly extended the practice of abstraction, creating mesmerizing paintings that mirror changing conditions of perception and subjectivity on the artist’s own terms.

Meanwhile, Cecily Brown, Carol Bove, and Tracey Emin rigorously extend the historical genre of figurative study with their paintings and sculpture that probe the possibilities of formal abstraction. Bove’s Dressing Room inThe Now Evening Sale sees the artist’s intervention in the muscular tradition of both Modernist and Minimalist sculpture through her industrial forms that create unique meaning through their relational contexts and material. Themes of desire and longing emerge in Tracey Emin’s The Closest I am to Love is You while rich painterly gestures unfold in Cecily Brown’s Untitled, visual embraces of sensuality presented as highlights of the Contemporary Day Sale. Together, works from these revolutionary and forefront artists of the contemporary age comprise a tightly curated and remarkable group that highlights the November Marquee Season.